Nice Jazz Festival
Today, jazz has become part of the Nice identity, thanks to a better reputation of the Nice Jazz festival, and the return of the festival to the helm of the City of Nice.
The Nice Jazz Festival has been fortunate enough to play host to many musical legends, of all genres, over the years including, as mentioned previously, Miles Davis, as well as Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Cliff, B.B. King (2001), Peter Gabriel (2004), Eagle-Eye Cherry (2001), Jamiroquai (2003) and Joe Jackson (2003) to name but a few.
But far from becoming a cliché, it has become an integral and deep part of local culture. From the beginning of their common history, some Nice youth, seduced by the new beats, embraced jazz. Over the years, jazz deepens its roots in the artistic sensibility of the young people of Nice and leads to many of them becoming artists, including two deceased musicians very special to the region: saxophonist Barney Wilen and trumpet player Aimé Barelli. Both have had international careers and contributed to the spread of jazz in the region. Between 1977 and 1980, Barney Wilen and his "Burodujazz" are encouraged by the City of Nice and Nice Matin to multiply jazz concerts and cultural activities made original by their popular and unusual venues and formats.
Nice jazz picnics
Contemporary Nice jazz musicians cannot be listed here: it would be too subjective and exhaustive. But let us bring up such names as the dynasty of the three generations of Ceccarelli, famous musicians who perfectly represent the part played by musical immersion in jazz music training. Such early contact with great jazzmen benefited Nice youth and continues to do so. It has triggered several self-learning talented musicians and retains its privileged role even though today, attending the jazz program of the Regional National Conservatory has become essential for young musicians.
After the last jazz clubs or cabarets closed down (from 73 in 1930 to 3 in 1980), the Storyville (Nice), the Pied Bleu (Cagnes sur mer) and the Oyster pub (Nice), where great local musicians have played, the Nice Jazz Festival would merely be a Summer fling without the CEDAC concerts in Cimiez. In 20 years, this quaint concert hall has earned its national and international reputation. Throughout the year, it is used by the City of Nice to showcase a bold and quality program (Art Blakey, Chet Baker, Michel Petrucciani, Ahmad Djamal …and many more jazz greats) for the greatest enjoyment of jazz lovers.
The concerts are billed as "jazz picnics" and the current open air setting at the Gallo-Roman Arenes et Jardins de Cimiez (Arenas and Gardens of Cimiez) certainly enforces this. Les Arenes adjoins magnificent olive gardens and, as well as having a sprinkling of olive trees within the grounds, contains busts of jazz legends from across the eras. Les Arenes in Nice is not the subject of Van Gogh's painting of the same name but the arena in Arles, which is the subject, is similar.
The gardens house three stages and performances generally run from 7 in the evening through to midnight and often beyond. Over this period, as many as ten major artists can be seen in a single day on the various stages, made possible as visitors to the festival are encouraged to roam freely around the setting. In between a wander from stage to stage, festival-goers can avail of traditional local favourites including socca and pissaladiere as well as select international cuisine including authentic creole food, imported beer and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
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